Strings Attached by Judy Blundell (NY: Scholastic, 2011).
Blundell has a gift for richly evocative, historical fiction, as witnessed in her previous novel, What I Saw and How I Lied, and moreso in her latest effort, Strings Attached, set in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The protagonist here is a young dancer named Kit Corrigan who has recently broken up with her violently jealous boyfriend Billy Benedict, quit high school, and left her family and home in Providence, Rhode Island, to pursue her dream of fame and fortune on Broadway in New York City.
Kit scrapes by at first, finding a bit part and sleeping on a fellow dancer's couch, but she knows she needs something more. She happens to meet Billy's father, Nate Benedict, a lawyer with rumored mob ties, who says he can help her out with an apartment and a lead on a dancing gig, if she'll help him get back in touch with Billy, who has enlisted in the army and refuses to talk to Nate. Kit agrees, lands the gig, and writes to Billy, telling him where to find her if he wants to rekindle their romance. Meanwhile, Nate occasionally asks Kit to do other small favors at the club where she works and gifts her with lovely clothes. Initially Kit has no problem with the arrangement, but once a dead mobster, someone whom Nate had asked Kit to watch, turns up at the club, Kit wants out.
This is an excellent historical novel, well plotted and dense with authentic period detail. Kit's relationships with her family as well as with Billy and Nate are realistically drawn and highly satisfying, while Kit herself is an engaging protagonist caught in a web of deceit that she can't quite see until it's almost too late. Highly recommended for ages 13 & up. Mild language, sexual & intense situations.
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